Research Methods –
· Naturalistic observations take place in the child’s natural settings. As with most observations, they can gather qualitative or quantitative data and can be either covert, overt, participant or non-participant. Naturalistic observations are used with an aim to studying ‘real’ behaviour, either to help a child develop appropriate behaviour or to research their behaviour. Naturalistic observations can take place in the child’s school, home or when with their peers. Time sampling is a technique which is often used in naturalistic observations – chunks of time are allocated and a researcher will record what happens in that time frame. This helps build a more widespread picture of what is happening.
· Data from naturalistic observations may be used to explain and solve an aspect of a child’s behaviour. For example, if a child is behaving badly in school, naturalistic observations can take place to ascertain why the child is behaving in such a manner and then solutions can be suggested which could improve the behaviour.
· Robertson and Robertson conducted naturalistic observations in children’s care homes. They simply watched the children go about their normal business, and noted down any behaviours which they thought were significant.
· Spitz also conducted naturalistic observations. He observed children in hospital in order to see whether being separated from their parents had a negative effect. The children’s behaviours were recorded and the consequences of being left alone were also recorded.
ü A strength of naturalistic observations is that they are valid. This is because they take place in the child’s natural settings and as a result the likelihood of demand characteristics being displayed is significantly reduced. Therefore, it is fair to assume that the behaviour being observed is real, and thus can be generalised to other situations. For example, the behaviour of the children in Robertson and Robertson’s studies is likely to be valid, as the children would have behaved the same as in a typical situation.
ü Another strength of naturalistic observations is that they have great worth in child psychology. Other methods may be inappropriate for use in child psychology as a child may not understand the method itself. For example, interviews may not be fit for purpose in child psychology, as a child may not understand what is being asked of them. Naturalistic observations, however, allow for research to be conducted on the behaviour of very young children.
r A weakness of naturalistic observations is that there may be ethical implications to the studies. If researchers are observing children who may be in distress, then the observations should stop immediately and the children comforted. Instead, many studies have to research the reasons behind these children’s distress, and so allow the observations to continue. This raises questions as to whether the observations are ethical. Further ethical problems lie in the fact that it is hard to explain to children why you are observing them. Although parents can give informed consent, the children themselves cannot, casting further doubt over…